When we work from the employer’s premises one can easily differentiate and identify the separation between home and work, be it the commute to and from work, the difference between the office and the sanctuary of home. However, with the remote work arrangements brought on by COVID-19, the lines seem to have been blurred, parents are working from home while children are being schooled from home.
Pre-COVID-19, working from home seemed very desirable especially for working parents for whom it meant the ability to work and be able to drop off and pick up children from school and not be stuck in rush hour traffic when commuting to and from home. This may even have involved a well-crafted structure to one’s day in regard to fitting certain household duties where required.
With COVID-19, working from home provides a safety net where all parties are able to operate from a safe and familiar space, limiting exposure to the virus and reducing the curve. The very same parents find themselves juggling multiple roles as employees, nannies, educators, wives, cleaners etc. with everyone under the same roof at the same time, the structured/ balanced processes, times and timetables have been thrown out of the window. Days are no longer divided into structured segments anymore. It isn’t about getting ready, going to work/school and subsequently returning home. It’s getting up, working, teaching, doing other domestic duties, working some more, teaching some more……. going to sleep, and starting all over again the following day!
The sanity of the parents (and even that of the children) and structure of the workday are not the only casualties of working from home through the pandemic. Some are privileged enough to have a comfortable, dedicated space which they can comfortably work from, others are sharing communal spaces such as the dining room table or kitchen counter with their spouses and children, where others have had to set up makeshift office/work spaces and find themselves retreating to the bedroom for some sort of privacy during work meetings. Homes are no longer the sanctuary they used to be. There’s also a crossing of lines between work and home where meetings are concerned from colleagues appearing on camera half dressed, spouses and children making unsolicited appearances at work meetings, etc.
Despite all of this, some employees seem to be navigating remote working with ease, yet others find themselves on the brink of burn-out as they work longer hours either to prove to their employers that they are productive, especially while at home, while for some the extra hours worked are due to an inability to shut down or draw the line between work and personal/ family time.
With most work engagements having shifted to virtual platforms, many employees find themselves attending more meetings, with some occurring after office hours and thus working even longer hours than before as they still need to keep up with their actual work duties. If this continues unabated, it becomes a recipe for burn-out or other disasters.
As appealing as remote working is, not everyone is well suited for it and as a result employers have and continue to do all they can to assist and support employees through this process.
Yes, the flexible working arrangements accommodate those:
Employers have equipped employees with internet access, the necessary equipment such as laptops, printers, etc. to ensure the ability to work, while fighting to #flattenthecurve.
However, employees need to also take control and put in place processes/structures to help them navigate their remote working arrangements. This can be done by:
Set a schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Maintaining regular hours as much as possible with clear guidelines with regard to working hours and when to shut down will help maintain a work-life balance. On occasions where you may be required to start work earlier than usual, communicate with your manager so that you may be able to finish work earlier in order to compensate for the lost time.
Have a set time and routine for starting work. This can be as simple as changing from your pyjamas to signal the start of work or going through your to-do list prior to tackling your e-mail. Another vital element is scheduling your work day as you would if you were at the office. Taking breaks as per the allotted tea or lunch breaks and taking that time to move away from your work station and phone. However, don’t let the breaks run over into work time, as this can easily lead to you shutting down much later in order to compensate for the extra time you took off from work.
As much as possible set ground rules with your family in regard to what you can and cannot do during work time. With having children around the house, this may be easier said than done, but it’s worth it to have a structure around your work time.
This does not need to be a fully kitted home office. It could be as simple as a dedicated desk for work use, or even a communal space such as a dining room table which becomes your workspace as soon as you switch on your computer. Working on your computer while watching TV with the family may seem like productive multiskilling, however, this means that you don’t give specific areas of your life the full attention they deserve, be it work or the required personal time to your family. This may also lead to you not shutting down fully when you should.
If you are required to balance household chores, home schooling and work at the same time, you need to ensure that these are divided evenly amongst the family. Let the children also help out according to their ages and abilities. If your children are young and need care, accept that there is a limit to what you can do from home.
Ask for assistance when you need it. This could either be for the tools required to fully equip you for remote working, or to seek guidance where needed. However, be reasonable, you cannot expect your employer to fully kit you with a home-office knowing that they still need to keep the regular office running.
Employers should ensure that there is regular face time with employees, this could be through regular video call meetings for the purpose of checking in. With the easing of lockdown regulations, “office days” could be scheduled where the employees are all in the office in order to maintain the much needed connection, so as to avoid feelings of loneliness, disconnection or isolation. Where possible, have channels where you can socialize with your colleagues, while complying with the government regulations on social interactions. As much as it is vital to be in contact with your colleagues and the work being done, do that within reason, avoid being sucked in on social channels when you need to be productive.
When you are ill, request sick leave in line with the company policy. When you need a break and are able to, apply for annual leave in order to get the much needed rest so that you can be productive in the long run. A number of employees have the ability to be extremely disciplined, however, working in unconventional circumstances can lead to one being distracted. When that happens acknowledge it, stop it and get back to work.
Some people respond to stressful times by burying themselves deep in work, especially if they are worried about losing their jobs. There’s a difference between working from home and living in the home office. Define the work-life divide clearly in order to maintain your sanity.
Avoid being constantly connected, leaving your laptop on or continuously checking your mail during the night. This can easily lead to burn-out and just because you are working from home, your employer does not expect you to be on call 24/7. Create a habit that signals the close of your work day, such as shutting down your computer.
In the end, no two people operate in a similar way, so you may need to find out what works for you while keeping in line with the workplace policies. When it comes to working remotely, everyone needs to come to the party in order to make it successful.
This article includes information from www.pcmag.com